Restaurant Trends

Trending Summer Cocktails: Is Your Restaurant Beverage Program Ready for the Summer Rush?

Do you remember when summer seemed like a lifetime away? Now, we’re bringing in the planters and sprucing up our outdoor patios. As the weather warms, guests will be looking forward to lighter fare and a refreshing drink. 

So, what is everyone drinking this summer? Is Negroni still the “in drink,” and does it have a unique twist? Has it been replaced with something a little lighter, fruitier, or slushier? Here, we’ll explore some of the top contenders and share some recipes to get you started thinking about the incredible season that lies just around the corner and how to make it memorable for your customers.

The Minimalist

From our homes to our home theaters, minimalism is all the rage. It’s about doing more with less and appreciating experiences over possessions. When applied to a summer beverage program, you’ll find the drinks, once topped with fruits and vegetables on a skewer, have given way to simplified elegance. 

In their place are high-quality, three-ingredient cocktails. Negroni is one of those three-ingredient favorites that lends itself to riffs and nearly limitless variations. Here’s one for your mezcal fans.

Recipe: Mezcal Negroni

  • 1 oz. Mezcal
  • 1 oz. Campari
  • 1 oz. Sweet Vermouth

Mix in ice until well-chilled and then strain into a glass with one large ice cube and garnish with a half-wheel orange. Some recommended mezcals include Marca Negra Espadin and Rey Compero Tepextate.

Savory & Spicy

The savory cocktail is in, and the fruity cocktail is out. That’s an overstatement. Every summer beverage program needs a drink where fresh fruit is the star. But this summer, you’ll also need some savory beverages with a little kick. 

According to Diageo Bar Academy, umami is where it’s at when creating a savory cocktail. Some popular ingredients in this category include mushrooms, miso, tahini, and seaweed. Kaitlyn Stewart, a global bartending champion and world-class judge, inspired the following recipe.

Recipe: Peruvian Pepper Tequila Tini

Place the following ingredients into a shaker with some ice. Strain and fill a chilled martini glass.

  • 2 oz. Don Julio Blanco—a tequila with hints of white pepper, citrus, tropical fruits, and green apple.
  • 1 oz. Fino Sherry—a dry white wine from southern Spain.
  • 1 tsp. Peruvian pickled pepper juice and 3 Peruvian pickled peppers. (Get your guests to say that three times fast).

The Heart of the Agave

Agave spirits are continuing to trend, with summer drinks incorporating tequila and mezcal. Tequila is made from the heart of the blue agave, while mezcal comes from numerous varieties of the agave plant. Mezcal offers a smokier flavor due to the cooking method of roasting the pinas, or hearts, in pits in the ground.

Small-batch artisanal brands are continuing to garner their share of the market. Espanita Grapefruit Tequila is distilled in small batches from blue agave hand-harvested in the highlands of Jalisco. Then, it’s infused for 45 days with Mexican-grown ruby red grapefruit. While it needs nothing more than crushed ice and a dash of sparkling soda, you can also make it a part of a Paloma, Grapefruit Tequila Sour, or Grapefruit-Chipotle Margarita. 

Recipe: Grapefruit-Chipotle Margarita

  • 2 oz. Tequila—Reposados are another good tequila option for margaritas. Smooth with hints of honey, oak, and sometimes jalapeno, it’s aged in oak barrels for two months to one year.
  • ½ oz. Agave Nectar
  • ½ oz. Combier or Cointreau Triple Sec
  • 1 oz. Fresh Grapefruit Juice
  • Dash of Chipotle Chile Powder to Taste

Mix in a shaker with ice and pour into a salt-rimmed glass filled with ice.

Refreshing

Citrus and mint are two great flavors that go together when looking for a refreshing drink in the heat of summer. Berries and mint are another popular duo. Add some vodka and simple syrup, and you’re on the way to an uplifting drink that provides life-affirming antioxidants. 

Recipe: Blueberry Vodka Smash

  • 8 Mint Leaves
  • ¼ Cup Blueberries
  • 2 oz. Vodka
  • ¾ oz. Simple Syrup
  • ¾ oz. Fresh Lime Juice and Lime Wedges

First, muddle the berries and mint to release the oils. Place the mint leaves, berries, and lime wedges in a cocktail shaker or bowl, and use a wooden cocktail muddler or a wooden spoon to mash gently. Your intentions are to release the oils and add flavors. Add ingredients, ice, and shake until cold. Garnish with blueberries and mint leaves.

Remember that the health-conscious younger generations are looking for opportunities to enjoy beverages and food that offer healthy alternatives. An alternative to simple syrup is 100% maple syrup. 

Recipe: Gin Basil Smash

  • 4 oz. Gin
  • 2 oz. Fresh Lemon Juice
  • 2 oz. Simply Syrup
  • 10 Basil Leaves

Muddle basil leaves, lemon juice, and simple syrup before adding gin. Basil is an herb that’s been shown to reduce inflammation, fight infections, and relieve stress. Garnish with basil and a lemon twist.

Drinks for the Mocktail Crowd

I have a friend who’s never imbibed in an alcoholic beverage. However, she gets extremely excited when she sees mocktail items on the menu. Consider the following to spruce up your non-alcoholic beverage offerings. 

A refreshing summer option is popular in Slovenia, where elderflowers grow abundantly.

Recipe: Blueberry Lime Elderflower Mocktail

  • 2 tbs. Elderflower Syrup
  • 2 tbs. Fresh Lime Juice
  • Handful of Blueberries
  • 1 cup Sparkling Mineral Water
  • Mint Leaves

Lightly muddle blueberries, lime juice, and elderflower syrup before adding mineral water and ice. Garnish with mint leaves and blueberries.

Enjoy!

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